Camden Council accused of hypocrisy over zero-hour contracts

Protest against zero hours contracts outside Camden Town Hall

Protest against zero hours contracts outside Camden Town Hall - Credit: Archant

The leader of Camden’s Conservative opposition has branded Labour cabinet members “hypocritical” for hiring carers on zero-hours contracts while the council has called on the government to ban the practice.

The carers will be paid less than the London Living Wage, a salary calculated on the basis of the cost of living in the capital, despite the authority being an accredited Living Wage council.

A proposal to lobby the government over the use of zero-hours contracts in the care industry, which allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of work, was pushed through by Labour councillors at a full council meeting on Monday.

The leader of Camden Conservatives, Cllr Claire-Louise Leyland, said she was “shocked” to hear the motion after cabinet members awarded a contract last week to hire carers on zero-hours contracts, who will be paid less than the London Living Wage.

She said at the meeting: “I’m really quite shocked. I am very happy to support people who are working in difficult straits.

“But I really find it offensive when my Labour colleagues would come out at the same time, the very same week, as agreeing a contract that allows zero-hours contracts at less than the London Living Wage, then tell us it’s something we have to do.”

It came as national Labour leader Ed Miliband vowed to crack down on zero-hours contracts should he win the next general election.

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Labour councillor Sally Gimson, who forwarded the motion, responded to Cllr Leyland’s comments by asking all councillors to back the proposal regardless of their views.

Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Theo Blackwell, said after the meeting there are no boroughs in the capital paying the London Living Wage to those in private social care contracts.

“Camden Conservatives have always opposed the London Living Wage, so their performance last night was chaff to divert attention away from their poor record.”

He added: “We have always been clear there is a problem with some social care contracts because of their size and how they are drawn up.”

Cllr Leyland has said Camden Conservatives will “call in” in the decision to award the social care contracts.